Posts Tagged ‘first pages’

Here’s a glimpse at the first chapter of WAR OF MAGIC:


Chapter 1: Premonition


Vatar stared into the heart of his forge, gauging both the heat of the fire—just right—and the temperature of the piece of steel heating there—not quite ready to be worked on his anvil. He twitched his shoulders against a sudden prickling sensation, the one that always presaged danger.

His heartbeat sped up in reaction. Something bad was about to happen and he had no idea what it might be. Vatar tried to look away from the forge, to look around the yard beyond his workshop and locate the source of danger. It hadn’t been that long ago that his children had been attacked in that very yard. But something about the flames held his eyes. Shapes, moving.

At one time, before he’d known about his inborn magic, he’d seen visions in the fire. Most often of Thekila, the woman who was now his life mate. He knew now that had been Far Sight—that he was actually seeing her across an impossible distance with his magic. At the time he’d thought she was only a daydream.

Now that he had better control of his magic, his Far Sight shouldn’t operate without his intention. Anyway, that itch between his shoulder blades was a weak form of Fore Sight—the least reliable and most useless aspect of his magic. The one Talent he had no control over. Well, not entirely useless. That warning prickle had never been wrong. If it was Fore Sight and if it foretold some danger, as his warning signal indicated, he’d better pay attention.

Vatar leaned a little closer, trying to make some sense of the faint images. Ships. Many ships all heading toward the mouth of a bay. Vatar sucked in a deep breath. He knew that landscape, though he hadn’t seen it from that angle. Those promontories guarded the bay on which Caere rested, unless there was another place almost identical. What did that mean? The itch between his shoulder blades only intensified, portending danger. A naval attack on Caere? From where? And why? Caere was the center of a loose and mutually-beneficial alliance of all the coastal cities—well, except for Kausalya, which had recently broken away from that coalition. But, so far, that had only resulted in trade disruptions, not warfare. Not even a minor clash at sea that he’d heard of.

Then the images shifted and Vatar’s breath caught, edging toward panic. The ships became horses. Hundreds of horses charging across the plains. The riders carried bows and spears at the ready. The Dardani going to war? Against what enemy? The obvious answer to that was the thing he’d most feared. Would the Exiles and their Themyri minions finally slip past the southern defenses? How many battles lay ahead? And how far in the future? How long did they have to prepare? Years? Days? His danger sense usually indicated imminent threat, but it was nearly winter. The last merchant ship of the season had returned to harbor more than a seven-day ago. Even the fishermen wouldn’t brave the waters beyond the bay again until the weather calmed once more late next spring. And snow would soon cover the plains, if it didn’t already. Hardly conditions for a mass battle on horseback. That thought wasn’t as much comfort as it should have been.

He shook his head to clear it as the flames returned to being merely flames and cursed his Fore Sight. Once again, his ‘gift’ had given him insufficient information to be of any use. Other than to give him nightmares. No idea when this might happen. Some of the things his ancestress, Abella, had prophesied had taken six hundred years to come to pass. Somehow, he didn’t think he’d be anywhere near that lucky with this Fore Telling.

Vatar breathed in and out slowly, using the calming exercises he’d learned to gain control of his magic. It was more difficult to bring his emotions under control than it had been for some time. Maybe, partly, because he didn’t understand. A naval attack on Caere could only come from Kausalya, the only unfriendly city on the coast. But he didn’t see any relation between that and the Dardani, who lived three days journey from the sea and had no dealings at all with Kausalya. And, if he couldn’t make sense of his own premonition, how was he supposed to warn anyone?

His fists clenched in frustration and he had to start the breathing exercise over. It wasn’t as if he could force his Fore Sight to supply the missing information. Maybe more would be revealed before whatever these images foretold happened. Maybe not.

He blinked and wiped his sweaty palms on the sides of his trousers. Vatar glanced at the red-hot steel, now ready to be worked. But, maybe, instead of a knife, as he’d intended, he’d make a spearhead. And try to harness that wild Talent that sometimes allowed him to sing power into the blades he forged. Protection for the user. Just in case.

Enjoy. Oh, and you can pre-order WAR OF MAGIC for only $0.99 until September 27th.

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I’ve made good progress on the very rough draft of BECOME, the first book of my next epic fantasy series. But I’m starting to get the itch to go back to WAR OF MAGIC, the final book of the DUAL MAGICS series.

This is exactly what I was hoping for when I took a short break to work on something else. Getting my enthusiasm for a project I’ve been working on for so long back up to the level I need to make the climax work.

I may work on the two in tandem for a while. I’ve done that before and the protagonists and stories are enough different that I think the risk of calling Vatar by Gaian’s name, or vice versa, is probably small. But I expect the momentum to carry me forward on WAR OF MAGIC before long.

Here’s a very early look at the first page of Become. This is part of the prologue. Gaian’s very first appearance shown from the point of view of one of his antagonists:

Queen Carala hung on tight to the railing at the top of the staircase for balance and scowled at the spectacle below her, clearly visible through the great doors, which had been flung wide for the occasion. A procession of priestesses, led by the High Priestess herself, climbed sedately up the broad steps of the Palace and were met by Carala’s husband of less than a year, Leradan, the Year King.

If she weren’t so heavily pregnant, she’d be down there herself. Not to welcome the priestesses, but to monitor whatever foolish promises Leradan made to them. Not that she’d have been able to sway him. Goddess knew she’d talked herself hoarse last night trying. But no one could change that man’s mind once he’d made it up. And he’d decided to let himself be thoroughly gulled about this.

Carala sighed. Much as she wanted to be there, it took two of her husband’s strongest guardsmen to see her safely down the steep staircase at this point. She’d just have to rely on her half-sister, Lady Damina, to let her know what ridiculous oaths the High Priestess extracted from Leradan.

Below, the High Priestess accepted a small, blanket-wrapped bundle from one of the other priestesses and passed it to Leradan. The infant squalled at the transfer and Leradan, blast the man, put the baby on his shoulder and rocked, completely oblivious to the effect on his dignity. Not that the demonstration that he would be a good father wasn’t reassuring. Carala placed a hand on her own swollen belly. But there was a time and place for everything. And the great hall, with the doors wide open to the whole kingdom, was not the place.

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It’s now less than two weeks until the release of DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????It’s only $0.99 on pre-order until May 18th. Then the price goes up.

So, here’s a sample. The opening scene:

Ailsa pushed a low-hanging branch out of her way and emerged onto the wider trail. Even the sharp, clean scent of pine couldn’t distract her from the dead tree directly across from her, a mature oak that had been green and healthy the last time she rode this way. Now it was bare and the bark was already turning black. Her stomach clenched at the sight. This was very nearly the heart of Far Terra. If the magic was failing even here, how much worse would it be on the fringes, nearer the surrounding desert? Without more mages—and soon—Far Terra would die.

She shook her head as if to clear it. She couldn’t really begin to plan until she knew what kind of magic she had and she couldn’t learn that until she got to the Institute of Magical Arts. Today was supposed to be a farewell ride with her friends. Ailsa should be enjoying that. They’d had to leave early to escape the gaggle of girls who always seemed to be around to flirt with the princes. This was the last chance they’d have to ride like this for at least a year, maybe longer. She wanted to let Pearl have a good run and this seemed like the best place for it. Sav came out onto the trail, Cergio and Perion right behind him.

She grinned, deciding to throw out a challenge she knew they couldn’t refuse. “There’s an old oak farther on, about a quarter mile. Race you there!” She leaned forward and dug her heels into Pearl’s sides.

Sav’s big, leggy black caught up to her and then passed her. Ailsa’s lips thinned. At the last moment, she jerked the reins to the side and guided Pearl onto the narrower track, which also cut off a sweeping bend in the main trail. It wasn’t cheating. She’d only specified the destination, not the path.

Ailsa sat up in the saddle to look ahead. Three fallen logs lay across this less-used trail, with no room for a horse to take a full stride between them. The undergrowth was too dense to allow any chance of going around them. Pearl could jump any one of them easily, but three together with barely room for the mare to gather herself for the next jump was more challenging. Ailsa had faith that Pearl could do it.

She bent low over the withers of her horse and urged her forward. Pearl lifted off, easily clearing the first log, landing, and lifting off again. It felt like flying. Ailsa laughed as the wind of Pearl’s speed whipped her hair into her face. They broke out onto the main trail again only a couple of lengths ahead of Sav.

This time they were going to do it. This time they were going to win. Ailsa turned her head to look over her shoulder. Sav’s long-legged black was gaining on them, but the other two were lost in the dust, too far behind to have a prayer of catching up.

She wasn’t going to come in second. Not this time. A tiny whirlwind of fallen leaves would distract his horse and slow Sav down. She was tempted, but using magic really would be cheating. And that would take the luster off the win. Instead she leaned forward to whisper encouragement into Pearl’s ear. “Go, girl. You can do it.” The mare put on a burst of speed. Ailsa whooped and raised her arms in triumph as they passed the oak tree that marked the finish line.

She jumped down and hugged Pearl’s neck, then grabbed a cloth from her saddlebags and began wiping her down, even though that little run had barely raised a sweat. “You’re wonderful. You’re the best horse ever.”

Sav pulled his black stallion up beside her and dismounted.

Ailsa paused her rub down of Pearl to turn to him. “I told you she could beat your black, didn’t I? She’s faster than she looks.”

Savyon patted Pearl’s shoulder. “No. She just runs her heart out for you. It’s not the same thing.” His eyes glowed oddly as he met Ailsa’s. “It’s a gift. To be able to inspire that kind of loyalty. She runs beyond her abilities for you.”

Ailsa blushed and concentrated on wiping the last traces of sweat off Pearl’s gleaming coat. Pearl liked to run. And if Sav was about to accuse her of using magic to win the race—when she’d specifically restrained herself, too—she’d . . . she’d hit him, prince or not.

Sav looked back down the forest path to a narrow place where Cergio had somehow gotten his bay gelding turned sideways on the trail, blocking Perion. He swallowed and grabbed Ailsa’s hand. “Ailsa, I . . . I . . .”

Why was Sav stammering? He’d never been shy with her before. They’d known each other practically since she could walk, after all. And even if she did occasionally get a little irritated with him, she would never really hit him. She looked up into his eyes. “What is it, Sav?”

With a shout, Ailsa’s cousin, Perion, slipped around Cergio’s horse’s flank and raced towards them. Cergio followed at a slower pace.

Sav grimaced and drew a deep breath. “You will be coming to the ball tonight, won’t you?”

Ailsa nodded. “Yes, of course. It’ll be my last chance before I go south to school. I doubt I’ll get invited to very many parties there. Anyway, I’ll be there to study, not socialize.”

He squeezed her hand. “Promise me a dance?”

Ailsa smiled. “As many as you like, Sav. As always.” She turned back to Pearl to hide her face. Who else am I going to dance with? Perion? Aunt Izbel will prod him to ask me once or twice, but I know he’d rather be dancing with Delea. And Cergio will be on his next romantic campaign. He won’t have time for me.

“I’ll see you there, then,” Sav said and released her hand just as the others rode up.

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March MadnessTwo of my books are part of the Clean Indie Reads March Madness Sale this week. Check it out, not just for my books. There are a lot of great reads on sale. And check out the other blogs on the blog hop, too. Here.

There’s also a giveaway of several of the books in the hop–including The Bard’s Gift. Enter that here.

Fire and Earth:

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

Though raised as a fearless, faceless warrior, Casora couldn’t stop her homeland’s invasion. Bullied, hapless princeling Tiaran can’t escape his political doom. When they join forces on the battlefield they’ll rock the foundations of kingdoms.

Chapter 1: Berserk

Casora restrained the impulse to get up and pace across the floor of the command tent. She couldn’t show emotion, not even frustration, in front of her troops, but the continued silence from home was troubling. She reached up to rub the little scar above her right eyebrow.

She glanced up at the mountains visible through the open tent flap. The snow crept lower every day and so did her hopes of a recall order to let the troop over-winter at home. Casora dreaded the prospect of a winter stuck in camp with a troop made up entirely of homesick teenagers–every one of them carrying the potential of the berserker curse. Time to start planning a lot of training exercises.

“Riders coming!” The shout came from the lookout to the east, toward home. After a pause, the lookout added, “Two of them.”

Only two riders? She’d sent three out.

Casora walked to the front of the tent and cursed under her breath. They were her scouts all right, but whatever orders they brought had better be end-of-the-world urgent. There was no other excuse for abusing the horses like that. Then she realized that Varana’s braid was redder than it should be–blood red. Casora took off running. So did others from all parts of the camp. Varana fell off the winded mare just as Casora reached her.

“Report,” she said, but more quietly than her usual command voice.

“Stumbled into a scouting party just inside the pass. Ambushed.”

Ravan ran up with a water skin and Casora held it so Varana could drink. “What happened?” She handed the skin back to Ravan and nodded towards the other scout.

“Ledan was out in front. Went down with the first volley. We tried to get to a defensible position. There were too many. Had to run. Bring word back here.”

Casora rocked back on her heels. “What about . . .” She paused to swallow and steady her voice. “What about home?”

“Smelled the smoke even before we got to the pass. Whole valley’s burning. Even from that high up, we could see the Yriri crawling all over the valley in their black armor, like ants on a corpse. There’s nothing left.”

Casora looked down at her empty palms. Her chest was too constricted to breathe. Astraea invaded? It wasn’t possible. Even the Deathless, really only warriors in training, had never been defeated. How could Astraea have been conquered?

The roar of angry voices around her snapped Casora back to her duty. She had to get them occupied with something and quick. She gripped the hilt of her sword. Anger, especially, was the enemy of the Cursed. Not something they could be allowed to engage in for long. Her eye lit on one of the greenest recruits, looking young and frightened. “You, see the wounded to the medicine tent. Look after them.”

Casora scanned the other faces around her. Orders wouldn’t come from home, so the decision was up to her. If Astraea was under attack, there was only one place where the Deathless should be and it wasn’t sitting uselessly in camp all winter. “Ravan, organize the band. We’ll need the horses and gear readied. Break down the camp. I want everything packed up and ready to move by dawn day after tomorrow.” She looked at the stunned faces around her. “Get a move on. The Deathless are needed at home.”

At that, the band broke into excited units, scattering to their various tasks. Casora breathed a sigh of relief. She felt Varana shaking her head against Casora’s supporting arm. Varana had more recent intelligence. Casora looked down to her friend’s face. “What is it?”

Varana’s answer was low enough that not many beside Casora heard it. “You didn’t see how many of those black-armored devils there are. Even the full band won’t be enough. That army could crush us like you or I would swat a fly. All we’d do is get ourselves killed, too.” Varana turned her head back toward the mountains. “Besides, the snow followed us down the mountain. It’s the only reason we got away from them. No one’s going into or out of Astraea until spring.”

and The Bard’s Gift:


Astrid is too shy to even talk to the boy she likes, so naturally she’s the one the Norse gods choose to lead a bunch of stubborn Norsemen–using just stories to inspire them.

Chapter 1: Starvation

Astrid leaned into the freezing wind, staggering down the beach hunting for driftwood to feed their meager fire. She kept one eye open for anything edible. The gale felt like needles of ice penetrating even the thick white bear pelt she wore as a cloak.

The wind swept up the fjord straight off the icy sea, funneled by the steep hills on either side. Astrid paused to take shelter for a few moments under a rock overhang that blocked the gusts. With nothing to hunt for, she let her mind drift, retelling to herself some of the stories her grandmother used to tell her. It was almost as good as sleep to take her mind off her hunger and keep her company.

From her shelter, she could see one of the many islets in the fjord, one that would be a seal rookery later in the year. That made her think of the stories about selkies, sea creatures that could shed their skins and take human form once a year. She pictured them dancing down there on the beach, as the stories described. In her mind, the leader looked a lot like tall, red-blond Torolf. The stories said that if a human stole the seal skin while its owner was in human form, the selkie could be compelled to stay on land as the wife—or, she supposed, husband—of the thief. Pity the stories always ended with the selkie finding the stolen skin and returning to the sea.

She sighed. If it were only that easy. Why would Torolf ever give her a second glance if she could never manage to say a complete, coherent sentence in front of him? Well, Torolf wasn’t going to magically appear on the beach. She might as well continue her search. She had to go farther and farther afield to find anything these days.

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A few weeks ago, I entered the Pitch Plus 5 Contest over at Adventures in YA Publishing. Then, life being what it is, I lost track of when the first round of results were due. Apparently it was yesterday. Now, the way this contest works is that the first 50 entries make it into the contest. (Actually, the first 25 at an impossibly early–for the West Coast–entry window and the first 25 for a window 12 hours later.) Then, those entries are judged on a standard form by respected book bloggers on a standard scorecard. Based on those scores, the top 25 entries make it to the next round.

This time, entrants also get a short critique from that first judge. Email being what it is (newest on top), I read that critique before the announcement of who got in to the next round. The first sentence is “The opening didn’t hook me.” So, naturally, I thought that I wasn’t going any further this time. Then I get down to the list–and DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING is on it.

Here’s the initial entry, by the way.

So, now I have two days to make revisions and also do a little work on the query and get it in by midnight (9 p.m. my time) tomorrow night for the next round, judged by authors.

Yeah, that means that the first draft of BEYOND THE PROPHECY (book 3 of the DUAL MAGICS series) will be put on hold until Tuesday. (I have written a new first chapter for it, that does a better job of telegraphing the kind of story it will be.)

Meanwhile, I’m in the middle (exactly) of painting the final wall in what will be my new writing space.

Digital CameraWhat I want to know is: who had the bright idea for all those louvers?

Going to be a busy couple of days.

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Just a bit of fun. Me, reading the first scene of The Bard’s Gift (slightly edited to take out the worst flubs.)


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Here’s another snippet, the opening scene of BLOOD WILL TELL:

Blood Will Tell Cover

Valeriah let the droning voices wash over her, ignoring them. Politicians and businessmen: they could talk more and say less than any ten other groups. Fortunately, it wasn’t her job to listen to them. In fact, better not, since she needed to stay alert.

She scanned the crowd again. She didn’t see anything out of place, but her instincts screamed at her that something was wrong. Sight could be deceiving, so she submerged herself in her other senses. Senses that were sharper than a human’s.

There. The sharp scent of fear overlaid with anger. That was out of place on a sunny day at the opening ceremony for a new high school science lab. Circulating inconspicuously through the crowd, Valeriah let her nose lead her to the source. The man in the bright yellow T-shirt didn’t look like much, but a concealed weapon could be a great leveler. She didn’t smell gun oil on him, but there was something else.

The mayor finished his “brief” remarks, finally. Zobran–he called himself Zebulon Towers on this side of the portal–stood to give his speech as the primary benefactor of the lab. Valeriah breathed more deeply, still trying to identify the strange scent. Not dangerous. But something . . .

The yellow-shirted man moved forward, raising his arm and shouting. “Towers Technology works for the military. Their money is blood money.”

Oh. One of those. He probably wasn’t a real threat, but her job right now was to safeguard Zobran. Still, there wasn’t any need to do more than interfere. No point in drawing undue attention over a simple protester. Before the man could complete his motion and throw whatever it was he held in his hand, Valeriah pounced. She moved so fast her leg was a blur as she brought it around behind the man’s knees. He fell. Whatever he’d held in his hand shattered and splashed red across the grey concrete of the quad. Not blood, the smell was all wrong, but something meant to look like it.

Valeriah recovered quickly and raised her eyes to see that Rayan had closed in beside Zobran, covering him in case of another attack. Good. Rayan was new, but he seemed to know his job. The few policemen on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony pushed their way towards the disturbance. Valeriah eased her way out of the crowd, moving slowly so as not to draw attention to herself.

Also, there’s another new chapter of BLOOD IS THICKER available on wattpad.

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In honor of the build up to the launch of BLOOD IS THICKER

Blood Is Thicker Cover

and the publication of the CHIMERIA OMNIBUS edition


here’s the opening scene of BLOOD IS THICKER:

“Rolf?” Valeriah pronounced his name carefully, even though it didn’t have any of the soft ess sounds that were so difficult for a dragon’s tongue and throat to produce without hissing.

“Hmm?” Rolf answered, opening one eye. He lay stretched out on the beach, dozing and digesting the cow they’d shared for lunch.

“How long iss thiss going to take?” Damn, those esses were hard.

“Which this is that, sweetheart?”

Show off. He didn’t have any trouble with his esses. Then again, he’d been a dragon from birth. He’d had a lot more time to practice. “Learning to be a dragon.”

Rolf stretched out his huge golden wing to embrace her and reached out with his long neck to rub his chin along her back.

Signs he knew she wasn’t going to like the answer. She felt herself tensing, subconsciously balancing her weight in preparation for a fight. As if she could fight a kitten, clumsy as she was in this unfamiliar body. That was another source of frustration. She’d been athletic in her human form. Not anymore.

“Most dragons take about ten years to master a new form,” Rolf said.

“Ten yearss!” She jerked upright, half unfolding her wings in outrage, and clunked Rolf’s jaw with the top of her head. It likely didn’t seem that long to him. Rolf was two-hundred-and-fifty years old, give or take. Valeriah would be twenty-six next month and ten years seemed like an impossibly long time to her.

Rolf pulled his head back but continued to rub his wingtip along the edge of her wings. “It’s not just learning to fly and speak Draconic. You’ll have to learn dragon magic. And, because you’re a red dragon, you’ll have to learn to breathe fire, too. That’s one I can’t teach you. Golds don’t breathe fire.”

“Ten yearsss!” By dragon law, now that she’d taken it, she had to keep dragon form until she mastered it. The reasoning was sound. Valeriah knew perfectly well if she was permitted to go back to her human form to have a conversation, she’d never learn Draconic. It’d be too much easier to speak her native language. Hells, at the beginning, she’d have changed back just to walk across the room. Suddenly having to remember to move four feet in the proper order hadn’t been as easy as it sounded. It had thrown her balance completely off. She still wasn’t exactly graceful on the ground. She was a little better in the air, but only because Rolf drilled her mercilessly.

Rolf ducked his head. “Maybe I can persuade Mother to give you a break on the dragon magic. You can learn and use that just as well in either form. And, since you’re part human anyway, you won’t need the magic to mask your appearance among humans. It’s not like you’ll have slit-pupiled eyes or scales.”

If she’d known that it would take ten years when he’d goaded her into taking dragon form, would she have done it? Rolf had been so excited at the prospect she probably would have. Besides, it really wouldn’t have been very diplomatic to refuse his mother’s wedding gift to them. Giving a half-werewolf the ability to take dragon form was no small gift. Normally, diplomacy was not Valeriah’s strong suit. She was much too blunt for that. Still when your mother-in-law is the Matriarch of the gold dragons, arguably the rightful ruler of all Chimeria, a little tact is probably called for.

The trouble was, at least so far, Valeriah didn’t really much like being a dragon. Flying was nice, at least when Rolf wasn’t drilling her in aerobatics. But there were days when she wanted to weep with frustration at just not being able to communicate clearly. She might have, if only dragons could cry. The Common Speech was incredibly difficult to pronounce with a dragon’s snout, forked tongue, and long throat. And Draconic was a completely foreign language she was only beginning to learn.

“You’ll learn quickly, Vallie,” Rolf said soothingly. “Maybe it won’t take you that long. Look at Drake. He hasn’t been a dragon much longer than you and he can speak perfect Draconic.”

“Drake understood Draconic already. He grew up hearing it. He just couldn’t speak it until he took dragon form.” She spoke slowly in Draconic, only substituting a few words of Common Speech when her limited Draconic vocabulary failed her.

Rolf cocked his head to the side. “That’s true. But you’re learning to fly much faster than he is.”

Valeriah snorted at that–a very impressive sound from a dragon’s lungs and snout. It communicated her thoughts on that just fine without any language problems. Nobody had been pushing Drake to fly the way Rolf pushed her.

Rolf tried to look contrite, not a very convincing look for a dragon. “Is it so very bad?”

Was it? It was more than just the speech, as if that wasn’t bad enough. Even Rolf hadn’t anticipated the dietary problems. That shouldn’t be an issue right now, near the full moon. Both her new dragon nature and her werewolf half craved meat and lots of it.

But becoming a dragon hadn’t changed her essential nature, only added to it. The trace of unicorn blood she’d inherited from her grandmother Elsibel still compelled her to a vegetarian diet at the new moon. Dragons just weren’t meant to be vegetarians. Their teeth were all wrong and the diet gave her horrible indigestion at every new moon, until the moon waxed and she could handle at least fish and poultry. One more complication. As if her life hadn’t had enough already. Matter of fact, the heartburn still hadn’t gotten better. If anything, it was worse.

“Indigesstion,” she said in the Common Speech, not wanting to make the effort to form a complete sentence.

“Still?” The spiny crest on his head stood up as his eyes widened in surprise, making him look like a startled iguana. “I thought that would get better when you could switch to meat again.”

Valeriah shook her head. “Comess and goess.” She didn’t even try to keep the hiss out of the sibilants.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. Nobody could have predicted that. I’m sure your body will adjust before long.”

Valeriah snorted again and laid her head back down on the sand.


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I’m currently about half way through what I hope will be the final draft of BLOOD IS THICKER.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

Blood Is Thicker Cover

(Shh! There’ll be a formal cover reveal later. This is a sneak peak.) Then planning for the launch really starts.

Here’s another sneak peak. The first page:

“Rolf?” Valeriah pronounced his name carefully, even though it didn’t have any of the soft ess sounds that were so difficult for a dragon’s tongue and throat to produce without hissing.

“Hmm?” Rolf answered, opening one eye. He lay stretched out on the beach, dozing and digesting the cow they’d shared for lunch.

“How long iss thiss going to take?” Damn, those esses were hard.

“Which this is that, sweetheart?”

Show off. He didn’t have any trouble with his esses. Then again, he’d been a dragon from birth. He’d had a lot more time to practice. “Learning to be a dragon.”

Rolf stretched out his huge golden wing to embrace her and reached out with his long neck to rub his chin along her back.

Signs he knew she wasn’t going to like the answer. She felt herself tensing, subconsciously balancing her weight in preparation for a fight. As if she could fight a kitten, clumsy as she was in this unfamiliar body. That was another source of frustration. She’d been athletic in her human form. Not anymore.

“Most dragons take about ten years to master a new form,” Rolf said.

“Ten yearss!” She jerked upright, half unfolding her wings in outrage, and clunked Rolf’s jaw with the top of her head. It likely didn’t seem that long to him. Rolf was two-hundred-and-fifty years old, give or take. Valeriah would be twenty-six next month and ten years seemed like an impossibly long time to her.

You can read the first two chapters of BLOOD IS THICKER on wattpad.


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First, new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are available on wattpad. FIRE AND EARTH is on track to be published on the 21st.

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

And now, for the rest of that deleted scene I posted on Sunday.

From her desk at the front of the command tent, Casora watched the large group of riders approaching. She wore the regulation leathers and enough of her armor to disguise her slender body. By reflex, she reached for her helmet to hide her face as well. No outsider ever saw the face of a Deathless.

The tent stood on a little rise overlooking the camp, where the flag bearing a circle of seven stars on a dark blue field could be seen for miles around. It was also above most of the mud, although the smell of wet earth, damp horses, and manure still reached her on the stiff breeze that whipped the flag above her.

The rise gave Casora a good view of anyone arriving at the camp long before they reached her. More than enough time to note that these riders were all redheads, not a common hair color outside of Astraea. Casora grinned and set her helmet back on the corner of the desk. They were replacements. No need to hide her face from them. They were about to become Deathless themselves and they wouldn’t be shocked to find that the second in command of the famous war band was a girl only a couple of years older than they were.

As the riders made their way down the central road, between the orderly rows of tents, she took note of their condition and readiness. The horses looked good. Someone had thought to stop and groom them before riding in. Very shortly before, by appearances, since the mud from the recent rains didn’t rise above their fetlocks. The riders’ spears had been polished and sharpened, too. Replacements usually tried to make a good impression.

The effect was spoiled by the ease of the riders and their ragged line, strung out like a hunting party. And the shiny weapons were held too loosely. In a skirmish, they’d be overwhelmed before they could get those spears into position.

The new ones always thought they’d been trained back home, but they always had so much still to learn when they got here. It’d be Casora’s job to figure out what that was and see that it happened right quick, before they had a chance to get themselves or a comrade killed.

Training, she knew. She was good at that. She grimaced as she thought of all the other work these riders would mean: billets to be found, supplies that the veterans would already have, armor to be refitted, paperwork. Casora hadn’t come close to being comfortable with that part of her new job as second in command of the Deathless. She’d only been moved up from the much smaller job of commanding the archers when the last group of replacements arrived two months ago.

Then again, maybe all that would be someone else’s worry. It was an unusually large group of replacements. Thirty people would be going home, nearly a tenth of the band. Maybe Casora would be one of them this time. Winter was coming on; this would be the last batch of replacements before the passes closed. If one of them wasn’t carrying her name, that would mean another dreary winter in camp, without even any fighting to liven things up while the snow was on the ground. The honor of being among the longest serving of the Deathless was frankly wearing a little thin.

Four years was a long time to be away. She’d be seventeen this winter. Grita would be marrying any time now. Casora’d like to get home before her sister up and fell for some plowboy or cowherd and moved away. Grita was lucky. She could marry whoever and whenever she chose. Having been born free of the Curse, Grita wasn’t required to be a warrior. Casora and Marcian would have to wait until their duty permitted more.

Others of the war band began to gather around the command tent, shouting greetings but too disciplined to ask the question on everybody’s mind. Anybody who’d served for more than a year hoped this might be their ticket home.

The replacements rode right up to the command tent before dismounting and Casora got her first good look at them. They looked barely old enough to be allowed to ride over the mountains and into a foreign country on their own, let alone fight a war. It seemed like the replacements got younger with every batch. Seven gods! Had she ever been that young and that green? Must have been.

Casora drew breath to bark an order when she heard Captain Ledan step out of the tent behind her. Casora exhaled soundlessly. Not her place to give orders in the Captain’s presence.

“Report!” Ledan’s order cut through the chatter like a blade. The more experienced Deathless quieted immediately; the replacements looked around with wide, frightened eyes. Green as grass.

“Beran, here to replace Captain Ledan,” the first one said proudly, as if replacing the commander somehow made him special. The effect was somewhat spoiled when his voice squeaked through a half-octave change in the middle of it.

Won’t make you the commander, boy. Not by a long road. A chill swept down Casora’s back as the full impact struck. No, it’d make Casora the commander. Seven gods! She’d have to be the one to lead the Deathless into battle, make the decisions that could get some or all of them killed. Her stomach knotted. She wasn’t ready for that. Casora bowed her head to hide the panic in her eyes. A leader couldn’t show fear; a leader had to be strong and confident for the band.

There had to be some mistake. Sure, Casora did most of the training, but that was a long way from leading them into battle. For a dizzy moment she was positive the next name would be hers. The generals back home had to know that she wasn’t ready for this. They’d sent someone else out to take over. She didn’t even need to look at those fresh, young faces to know that wasn’t true. None of the replacements would be carrying her name. They simply would not call back the first and second in command at the same time. Panic warred with disappointment and won.

Maybe, with Marcian and Varana to support her, she could manage without making a complete ass of herself. Maybe.

She could almost feel the breath being held by every member of the Deathless, waiting for the next name.

“Telar, to replace Deathless Marcian,” the second boy said, snapping to attention much better than the first boy had.

Gods, what have I done to offend you that you would leave me here in command of this circus and send my love back home? It’s going to be a long, cold winter. Absently, she rubbed at the tiny scar above her right eyebrow. She bent her head over her work, recording the names of the new replacements and those called home in separate columns on her tally sheet.

Her head almost snapped back up when the fourth replacement spoke in a high clear voice that had to belong to a girl of maybe thirteen. “Dalora, to replace Deathless Varana.”

Her best friend, too? Casora looked back down at her list. None of those called home had only a single year of service. All of them had as much time as Casora or nearly as much. Ledan, of course, had more. They’d called home all of the most experienced of the Deathless–all except her.

Perfect. Marcian was–or had been–also her logical second. Him or Varana. Now it’d have to be Ravan. She spotted Marcian at the front of the watching Deathless, grinning fit to split his homely face and staggering from the others’ hearty slaps on his broad back. His smile faded a little when their eyes met. Casora forced a smile herself, unwilling to spoil his moment.

As the band broke up, drifting back to their individual tasks or dragging both the new recruits and those about to go home away for a celebratory drink, Ledan’s hand fell on Casora’s shoulder.

“I felt the same way when they called Keltan home and left me in command.”

“You had more than a couple of months as Keltan’s second.”

“True,” Ledan said. “You’re readier than you think you are, Casora. Don’t let them see uncertainty.”

Casora gulped and managed a nod.

“Come on, we have work to do before we can help them celebrate,” Ledan said.

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